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Down the Gasoline Trail


Published 1935


Cartoon showing what happens to a drop of gasoline from the time it flows into the gas tank to when it is exploded in the engine cylinder. This "fantastic voyage" through a glisteningly clean Chevrolet engine is an excellent example of the soft-sell industrial, where the product that's promoted is hardly ever mentioned by name.


Run time 7:55
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W

Shotlist

"REAL PHOTOGRAPHY & CARTOON ANIMATION TELL WHAT HAPPENS TO A DROP OF GASOLINE FROM THE TIME IT IS PUT INTO THE GASOLINE TANK OF A CHEVROLET TO THE TIME IT BRINGS TO LIFE ALL THE POWER OF THE VALVE-IN-HEAD ENGINE."


Ken Smith notes: This early JHO/Chevrolet film superimposes cartoon animation over CU industrial photography as it follows an anthropomorphized drop of gasoline through the "efficiently designed gasoline delivery system" of a Chevy engine. The little drop swims, slides and flies through the gas tank, fuel pump, and manifold until he is finally inflated like a balloon by the carburetor and blown to bits by a spark plug. "He's led a very fortunate life!" the narrator reminds us as the little drop sprouts angel wings and flies off to smog heaven. A fun film; informative and well-produced.

Who cares about the life and death of a drop of gasoline? You will after
you see Down the Gasoline Trail. Mixing smart animation, live-action
photography, and an original musical score, Jam Handy's nameless animation
wizards crafted a delightful film that manages to engage the viewer in the
details of a process we ordinarily take for granted.
Down the Gasoline Trail, the fifteenth of Jam Handy's popular Direct Mass
Selling films, was the first in the series to be animated. Between 1935 and
1941 the company produced 118 films for Chevrolet, all to promote the Chevy
brand name directly to the public. Mass selling was enormously popular in
the thirties, when millions of people went to the movies each week, and the
sound of network radio, a relative youngster among media, was heard in
millions of homes. For national advertisers, sponsored films were a way to
grab moviegoers' attention for a comparatively long time-longer, at any
rate, than the glance generally given to print advertisements or the brief
diversion of sixty-second radio spots. (Sponsored films usually ran ten to
twenty minutes, unlike the Minute Movies of the day, described elsewhere on
this disc.) In an effort not to trigger impatience and resentment among
paying audiences, advertising films emphasized entertainment over sales
pitches. Indeed, films like Gasoline Trail and A Coach for Cinderella are
oddly similar to some of today's public television: both present "new
horizons" in science and technology, underwritten by corporate sponsors and
in complete harmony with the sponsors' views; although both mention the
sponsors' identities, neither includes more than a minimal plug for
products or services. The little gasoline drop is not a trademark for
Chevrolet or an icon representing the company's products, but a sprite
whose "magical" errand is to make us recognize Chevy's sense of humor.

Gasoline needs the most "efficiently designed system" in order to do his work. Using a combination of animated drawing, close-up shots of engine parts, and a cartoon drop of gasoline, this film plots the path that the gasoline takes from the gas tank to the exhaust pipe. While the eager drop of gasoline swims through the tunnels of the fuel lines, gas pump and carburetor, good designing enables him to be cooled and flow smoothly and rapidly, struggle through a strategically placed filter, blow up to seventeen times his original size with the proper heating when appropriate "so that he can do his best when he reaches the cylinder." There he is blown up and becomes a graceful angel, having lived his life to the fullest. He is fortunate to have traveled down the gasoline trail of a Chevrolet.

Close-up of a gas cap being unscrewed and a gas nozzle being inserted
Close-up of an automobile gas gauge
Close-up of gas slowly trickling into gas tank, turns into animation sequence of drops of gasoline entering gas tank. A drop becomes a cartoon character, swimming down into the gas line. He does the back stroke around a curve, blowing liquid into the air. These animation sequences are cut with shots of an actual fuel line on an automobile. An approaching cartoon waterfall cuts to a shot of an actual gasoline pump. Animation of cartoon drop in the glass bowl below the gasoline pump. He does a series of bashful movements where the gasoline is pouring in -- suddenly a towel on a towel rack appears and he happily dries off, puts the towel around his neck and dives in.
Animation close-up of a screen with vapor flowing in front of it
Cartoon gas drop stuck in the screen
Close-up of actual gas pump, camera pans along gas line to the carburetor.
Animation drops falling out of a tube and evaporating upon impact
Close-up of an exhaust pipe
Close-up of a spare tire (covered) mounted on the bumper of a Chevrolet


CHEVROLET ADVERTISING AUTOMOBILES TRANSPORTATION GASOLINE PETROLEUM ENERGY FUEL CARBURETORS ENGINES ANIMATION CARTOONS CARTOONS CHARACTERS SURREALISM FANTASY HUMOR ANTHROPOMORPHISM MOTORS VALVE-IN-HEAD LIQUIDS Drops Drips Automobiles Engines Death Explosions Danger Lurks
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Reviews

Reviewer: bestpbx - - February 2, 2010
Subject: What a BEAUTIFUL car!!!!!!!!
It is an interesting little film and the car is just amazing! WOW! I wish I had a car like that now... it would be worth $$$$$$.
Reviewer: Seto-Kaiba_Is_Stupid - - March 27, 2009
Subject: BEST CARTOON EVER
This is innovative and clever.

Thanks Rick. Nice for stock footage too.
Reviewer: jazzfan - - July 26, 2008
Subject: Fun
It's cute and fun to watch.
Reviewer: Retro_Saiyan - - July 25, 2008
Subject: Nice film FTW
More fun than a gun.
Reviewer: Robin_1990 - - April 22, 2008
Subject: Fun Film
I love this little film, and I honestly wish today's advertising could be this good. In fact, It's Cute, Amusing and even Charming!
Reviewer: radio_earbug - - May 14, 2006
Subject: drop of gasoline
I love the intgration of cartoon & video. Reminds me of the old disney cartoons.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - - February 12, 2006
Subject: Air Pollution from Angels
This cute animated Jam Handy film for GM shows the journey of a gasoline drop down the fuel line to the engine, where it is vaporized, turning it into an angel which flies out of the exhaust pipe. I wonÂt touch with a ten-foot pole the theological issues involved here. IÂll just say that this is a fun film with a great ÂMr. Product character. Remember, folks, every time you drive, angels are flying out of your exhaust pipe. Or at least they did in the days before catalytic converters.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Reviewer: Karma Hawk - - April 4, 2005
Subject: And this needed an explanation why?
This film unlike a lot of films on this site (I'm looking at you Jay) does have a clear purpose, it shows us what happens to gasoline once it enters the car, but the peculiar thing about this short is why Chevorlet felt the need to make a film about it. It really doesn't show off any features of Cheverlet cars as oposed to others, and for the most part the gasoline pretty much takes an uneventful path through the automobile. It's a great film but it kind of leaves you wondering why Cheverlet felt it was so vital for us to know about the journey of a gas drop.
Reviewer: Spuzz - - April 24, 2003
Subject: Cute animation about cruelty to gas drops!
In this very cute animated film we find out how gas is disttributed to make engines go. Chevrolet has done this type of film before, making the most complex automotive functions palatable on film to the general public. Another example of this is 'Around The Corner' about turning axles. Here, we follow a cute frop of gasoline (which is white, almost sperm like.. this point makes the whole film almost sexual) as we follow it's way down it's many curves of an engine ultimately to be VAPORIZED! But don't worry, as all of this nastiness is neatly explained away. The droplet is HAPPY to be vaporized1 A rather bizarre little short. Reccomended!
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